Current Training Status: not blogging... running.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Escarpment Trail Run

Sunday morning, Ed and I roll out in the wee hours for North Lake, in the upper Catskills of NY.  The Escarpment Trail run is 18.6 miles, or 30 K, or however long it really is.  Given Ben Nephew's times, and my Grand Tree scoring, I'll shoot for 4 - 4:15.  There is a massive elevation claim for this course, 10,000' total.  If I subtract 4 miles from my Wapack time, I get about 4 hours, then add a bit more for an extra couple thousand feet climbing and descending ... yeah.  If I'm feeling good coming down from Stoppel Point, I could make a dash at breaking 4, however there is litttle likely-hood that I can anticipate the terrain well enough to know what my time means when I'm at Stoppel Point.  It has been weeks since a great race like this and I'm psyched.
If you follow this  blog, maybe you're noticing I have no concern for my recent injury.  Last night, at the Elks, I ran a darn good 5k with a steady tempo+ effort followed by a fast-paced summit cool-down.  The cool down was with Billy Rowe, who doesn't seem to run slow.  Some left leg soreness compensating for the right, which isn't 100%, but I'm confident in my overall fitness.  The 5k was so easy, I feel my fitness is improved a great deal from the time off and enforced core-strengthening I've gotten during my new job, at FedEx.  Ed just called and the plans are set! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Running Again

There is a great deal of stiffness in my ankle, and entire illiotibial band, so it is time to get it all moving and see what happens. Seems I'll have a knot in my muscles for a while and it will keep me from really pushing things, worst problem is that it throws the mechanics of my knee off. At Escarpment this could translate into an injury if I get reckless, so somehow I have to discipline myself on the downhills.
In any case, this Blog will once again focus on mapping future runs. What a great dumping ground for race-report yammering it has been. The woods drew blood last week, and at the moment this is the only attempt I make to let others know where I'll be. This isn't even close to the level of precaution others take, but it's what I got. Somehow, I will reformat things to make Race Reports more accessible or give my different activities here their own format.
So, today I'll take off for a longer, flat run. Nine miles on the Manhan Rail trail. In all probability it will be cut short because I'll be exhausted by training at 2 new jobs today. I feel I can take a nice slow run at this distance though, and this will be the longest run before Escarpment to jump-start my endurance.

Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 Mountain Goat (on a stick?)

This past weekend, I earned my second consecutive Mountain Goat jersey. After the Ascutney race, all of us who ran all six races were handed a congradulatory letter with the following statistics about what we did:
 • Approximately 35 Race Miles over 8 weeks
 • 11,987 Feet of Elevation Ascended
 • 5,100 Feet of Elevation Descended
 • Completed by less than 60 people annually
 • Earned a Mt. Washington Lottery bypass for 2009
Later in the week, when official results were posted, I was honored to find my name among the following 'streakers':
 • Fred Ross III 24 consecutive finishes 2005-2008
 • Ray Boutotte 21 consecutive finishes 2005-2008
Others of note:
 • 18 Consecutive (2006-2008) Todd Brown, Thomas Parker, Richard Stockdale
 • 13 Consecutive (2006-2008) Tim Mahoney, Walter Kuklinski
 • 12 Consecutive (2007-2008) Christopher Corradino, Mike McKenna, James Whitehouse, Joseph McGuigan, Kevin Eaton, Lincoln Cox, Richard Mellor, Lisa Doucett, Kathy Hurst
After the race awards and descending the mountain, we all lined up for several group pictures which I'll try to post if they become available. There was an incredible number of hands in the air, answering the question, 'How many are first time Goats?' I saw how rare it was to have done the last two consecutive series, and was surprised.  Even before finishing 2008, a Mountain Goat Jesey in 2009 has been a goal in mind. It would be a shame to miss the lottery for the 2010 Mt. Washington Road Race, at its 50th anniversary running.
The next race on my personal schedule is the Escarpment Trail Run. This is a treacherous ridgeline course in the upper Catskills of NY. It may be the next race I run. I'll have competed in a race every single day that I have run in July, with one exception. This past Tuesday, rather than run the commute to and from, and race at the Northampton 5K, I decided to get in one last long run. About 6 miles into the East Mountain Complete Course, on the M+M behind Bear Hole Reservoir, I was brought to an abrupt halt by a blown down tree.
The M+M is incredibly overgrown behind Bear Hole Reservoir. Passing through the worst of the ever-present briar patches on that stretch, I rolled my ankle pretty bad and almost stopped the run. I was over-running the visibile footing, just as it's easy sometimes to over-drive your headlights on the road.  A quarter mile later, moving at a good clip through light underbrush, I swung my right leg foward right into the end of a blown down tree. The end of this tree, hidden from view, was very jagged and punctured my shin in sevaral places. This happened beside to the shinbone, in the fleshy muscle along the outside of my leg.  The wood was stopped by the fibula bone, where it is still sore. Blood quickly soaked my sock, and all I had with me were my shoes, shorts, and water bottles. It was a ridiculous situation, 5 or 6 miles from my car, 2 miles at least from any real road, 2 weeks since I was laid off and my health insurance ran out.
It didn't hurt too much, but was obviously a serious puncture wound. While I considered the possibility of using my shoelace as a tourniquet, the bleeding slowed and I chose to make a run back to the car by the shortest route possible.  Via atv trails and closed roads I knew from maps, I was fairly certain of a straight shot back to Ashley Reservoir. Adrenaline and other survival mechanisms of my body must have been in play, as the bleeding stopped within a minute of running again. I brought myself to a walk at the reservoir, three miles later, and the bleeding began again. Also the pain got much worse and I was hobbling by the time I was back at the car. I would have benefitted from a trip to the ER, but decided against it. At Rite Aid, I bought some pressuized sterile saline 'Wound Wash' spray, iodine solution, butterfly strips and krazy glue just in case.
I didn't go crazy (didn't use the glue), and the wound had closed up while butterfly-ed overnight. I could not walk Wednesday morning, and had to cancel my newspaper delivery for the day. The tree had passed through some part of my muscles and the bone was tender. Thursday I was walking with a minimal limp, and today, Friday, I'll do some light work. Hopefully, with a few more days off, I'll be able to return to running and do a enough to prepare me for Escarpment. My training base is pretty solid, and I'll be ramping up my core strengthening exercises in the meantime. The serious worry I have, is that the mechanics of my right leg are going to be worse. It is my weakest leg and my knee bothers me often because of previous injuries and imbalances I already have. This new injury will not improve the situation and might require some focussed recovery work. Only time will tell. The wound itself doesn't look half as bad as it seemed on the trail, 4 miles from my car.  Click this link if you'd like to see an annotated scan of the wound.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Running of the Goats

Tomorrow, at the Ascutney Mountain Run, I will finish my second Mountain Series. What a grueling season it has been. By choice, I've made it tougher and hopefully will see some benefits in two weeks at the Escarpment Trail Run, in the upper Catskills of NY. Granted, a year later I've trained like crazy for these races and only seen a couple minutes come off a couple races. Training like crazy of course is not accurate, choosing a couple clear strategies I methodically stuck to a plan. Looking back just before getting my second 'Mountain Goat' jersey tomorrow, I see that I'm a much different runner. 
Loon Mountain, last week, was a very successful day. After 3 hours in my car, the Whites were rising into the crisp morning air. Finding a rest stop called, 'Beaver Creek', I had a good stretch and shortly thereafter rolled into Lincoln. Passing Loon, I continued on to scout out the Trailhead where the Pemi-Challenge 50k had begun awhile before. The Lincoln Woods trailhead had a parking lot with facilities and a fee, as well as a visitors center. The Mountains were gorgeous, towering spines and ridges. Returning back to Loon, I passed a couple familiar faces. Looking like total tourists, Dave Dunham and Tim VanOrden were taking wide shots of the Loon Mountain signage. They parked right next to me, incredibly talented masters runners with wide smiles and tons of energy. The weather looked great, if a potential scorcher, and I had plenty of shady trail mileage down the road to look forward to later on. 
It was a scorcher indeed. We were all exposed to it while powerhiking the relentless slope of Upper Walking Boss. Turning around for a couple backward steps now and then, I got an eye-full of the Pemi-Loop course. If you'd have told me that I was heading up there next, I'd have to catch my breath so I could laugh in your face. Within the hour though, that is exactly where I was headed. After taking in the views at the top of Loon, more eye candy on a solitary gondola ride down, after grabbing a few bagels I found no reason to linger and was soon settling in at Lincoln Woods. There weren't any obvious runner vehicles, no 26.2 stickers or gear logos. The RD's car was noticeable though, a vanity plate that had to belong to Sherpa John LaCroix. With the heat and the Finger Lakes Ultra races the same day, I wondered if he was the only one running this.
As planned, my entire water-carrying capacity was soon on my person and I swaggered into the Visitor Center. The lady at the desk was very polite and showed me their detailed map, with each leg of the trails measured. Knowing now which way to go (or so I thought), I struck out across the Pemigewasset and toward Osseo Trail. Online forum chatter suggested an easy run here would be 10-13 hours. The race started at 6:30, so I figured I might see someone if I ran about 2 hours in. At that point, if they were in dire need of water or a gel, I'd oblige and follow them back. 
The Osseo trail proved to be very runnable. The sense of remote wilderness was only interrupted by a series of boulder-staircase switch-backs, the gradual incline kept me moving quickly for about 45 minutes. Then began the most grueling ascent of the day. It was hot, and steep. Still sort of in race-mode, I was powerhiking steadily. At about an hour and a half I drank my newest concoction, a rich mix of perpetuem and half a raspberry gel. Very tasty, but I made a total mess. The 'Osseo Ladders' I'd read about were soon passing underfoot, very odd planting my foot on the euclidian shapes of telephone poles atop each staircase 'ladder'. Ascending that, and joining the ridgeline trail, the next climb soon began up a pile of roots and boulders, Loon was nothing compared to this! 
The clock was ticking toward my Mt. Washington Road Race time, as I passed a family on their hike. The young girl actually said, 'That man is carrying a ton of water!', and dad replies, 'Oh, he'll need it alright!' This as I bounded on past up the near vertical slope, sure of a summit ahead. Popping up top between a couple boulders, there were about 20 hikers, backpacks and the whole nine yards greeting me with bemused looks. Having put on my shirt due to the breeze, I was still comparatively naked carrying only water and assorted calories. Looking past the hikers, my jaw hung and eyes gaped in awe at the endless procesion of crests and valleys surrounding me. If there wasn't company I'd probably have cried. 
I was on top of the world. This was my second summit of the whites, but stripped of all the civilized trappings at Mt. Washington this experience was utterly humbling and awesome. Doing some math I now figured these trails were way too technical and the weather too severe for an unsupported run under 12 or 13 hours at the outside. My math may have been way off, but I was correct in assuming I would definitely be running alone. I hung around quite a bit taking in the vista before gazing across the impossible distance to the next peak. People had been discussing the peaks surrounding them, but I couldn't follow being completely ignorant of their names. The thrill of it all had me completely re-juevenated and giddily barreling down the Mountain toward the next summit.
The ridge wasn't too far down and the climb not so bad to the next peak. There I found fewer hikers, but an interesting crowd. There was one dude by himself with his laptop. I watched pick it up and point it toward the surrounding peaks, so I assume he was taking pictures. It was like some weird cafe atop both of these 4000'ers. I sat down, had my second batch of perpetuem and took stock of the situation. Judging by the shape of the ridgeline, Lincoln was 2 summits away. I was halfway through my water supply and couldn't go any further. Lincoln seemed way beyond the reach of my supplies, but not my legs. I couldn't imagine carrying enough water, but it was easy to imagine a case of summit fever taking me there. I sat and pondered, thoroughly stretched out and began to head back.
Where my energy was coming from, I don't know. Obviously this new perpetuem recipe was keeping me moving. I ran where possible, most of the way between summits. Already there was a smaller crowd at what I'd learn was Flume. Everyone was in groups, it seemed awkward to be alone, then really strange to be socially concerned on a wilderness mountain top. Taking in my last views of the day from above 4000', I set off down the boulders at a run. Now, this was over 12 miles into my day and I was still strong enough to discover new technique on the uber-technical descent.
I ran down stuff that was mind bogglingly difficult and then decided to enforce a break back on the Osseo ladders. It is still up in the air to me whether the break was necessary or premature, as my mental focus after relaxing down the stairs was shot. Past the ladders I couldn't run 5 minutes without catching a root. Crashing into a tree, I decided to walk the rest of the technical sections. Calories may have helped, but my water was running low and a gel meant drinking more. I downed a couple endurolytes and high-salt joint supplements, rationing my water the rest of the way.
Once the trail flattened out I ran the rest carefully, breaking for the boulder switchbacks. There was no energy left to acknowledge any of the many groups of people I passed on the old rail trail back to the bridge. It was still quality running, focussed on an efficient stride. Back at my car I was definitely dehydrated. After guzzling some Smart Water and mixing a recovery drink, I went back down to the cool waters of the Pemi and soaked for about ten minutes.
The car with HIKE4KS on the plate was undisturbed, so I knew Sherpa at least was still out there. At the Visitor Center, I was too fried to read the map. With some help I determined I made it as far as Liberty. The mythic significance of this achievement on 4th of July weekend overwhelmed my depleted/elated brain. I decided to chill out for at least an hour before driving home. This would give me a chance to come back down to earth and possibly cross paths with Sherpa and/or others I'd only known on internet forums. I got myself changed, packed up and ready to go, then headed to town for some beer. I brought a 24 oz. handheld of Long Trail and a couple PB+J's to the bridge over the Pemi where I expected any finishers to cross and filled my belly. 
Soon enough, about 5:30 to be exact, three loping runners with camelbacks came along, crossed the bridge and immediately submerged themselvs in the Pemi's current. They admitted to having finished the 50k, and I was stunned. I was even more surprised to learn that they started at about 7:30 am, and had run the loop in less than 11 hours despite heat and humidity. One face I recognized, Bob Mathes and I crossed paths at Wapack 50 (where I ran a paltry 21 miles).
Finishing my PB+J, I started a conversation with another runner wearing a Loon T-Shirt. This was Bob Sharkey, who said he was edged out of his age division by Paul Bazanchuk (though he had a good 8 minutes on me). He seemed to know all these guys, so I was able to get the names straight. It was Bob Mathes, Tim Roy who did the 42 at Wapack, and Joe Holland. Very humbling company.  Also gathered from their chit-chat was the fact that I had run the beginning of the course, so there never was any hope of being any help to anyone but myself. We soon went our separate ways, and I was getting ready to climb in my car when a kid in a red hat began making his way across the parking lot. This was Sherpa John, RD for the event, trailing by about 20 minutes across those soaring peaks and grueling climbs.
Once again, like at Wapack, I knew the terrain these guys had run to some extent, first-hand. Once again I was struck dumb in the face of what they'd accomplished in their day. The more I consider that, the more I feel the need to get out there and find out what is possible. All the while I listened to their account of the day, hikers with big sleeping rolls were heading out onto the trails. To enjoy the landscape these guys had just traversed involves a span of days, for most people. Sherpa John had a whole batch of pictures posted that same night, taken during the run and testifying to just how enjoyable those peaks are, even at their pace. Later in the week, I'd peek into the running log of Bret Sarnquist, who I saw win the Wapack 50. He had stopped by the next day to run the course, unsupported and presumably alone, in a blistering 8:14.
My brief experience of the Pemi-Loop, though it took me 4 hours, didn't seem long enough, these Whites are like Disneyland. Loon was great and I'll be very proud of my accomplishment tomorrow as a 'Mountain Goat', but I can see the training I did to get here carrying me further to new goals. I can imagine, foolishly, running 50 miles. A 50k is definitely in the plans though, and more training runs to explore the demands of 5-10 hours at a steady clip.  This is simply where my interest lies (as I write this, I'm following the Hardrock 100 where Kyle Skaggs leads the field by hours toward a ridiculous CR - by 2 1/2 hours actually, in 23:23:30, check these photos out). The Loon Mountain Race led to an 18 mile day, where Loon Mtn. was hardly the major climb, so my training has carried me a long way along the road to an ultra. This past week, I'm reaching record mileage running only every other day. I've commuted to 2 5k races, running there and back getting a balanced day of long runs and speedwork. Obviously I'll need to take this interest seriously and train in a more structured fashion to avoid injury, and plant both feet firmly on the road to an ultra (hopefully on a trail). 

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pemigewasset Valley Reports

The USATF Mountain Series is a point series of six races ranging in distance from 3.8 - 10 miles, on trail and on road, up grades that can reduce most to a power-hike. As an incentive to complete the series, the Mt. Washington RD, Bob Teschek, offers a lottery bypass to anyone completing all 6 races. Last year I ran them all for the first time and got hooked. This year I've almost done it again, with the addition of Mt. Washington. The Mt. Washington course is 7.6 miles and 4,650' of unrelenting climb, with the last couple miles above treeline. This challenge was a big focus of my training this season, also on the slate was entering Escarpment by qualifying with the MorFun Wapack 21 miler. I knew I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I committed to running all of these races, but that was part of the excitement. The Mt. Washington race is behind me now by a couple weeks, Escarpment is 3 weeks away, and I'm slowly beginning to appreciate what I actually did 'get myself into'.
I began logging my vertical climb each week and set realistic goals to avoid going bananas and getting hurt. With snow on the trails, in January I logged 8,050'. During May, a month before Mt. Washington, I logged 26,300' or almost 5 vertical miles. Another strategy to prepare for Mt. Washington was to run each Mountain race twice. At Mt. Wachusett there is a short trail back down to the start to loosen up on before the repeat. This inspired a more agressive, direct route back up and down Northfield Mtn. for my repeat there. At those races I made it back for the award ceremony, not so at Pack Monadnock. This race finished right on the Wapack Trail, where I'd run a race the month before. A perfect opportunity to hit the trails after a grueling road race brought me back at the very end of the awards and the end of the food. Stinking, struggling vehicles and probably some state law put any repeat of Mt. Washington itself out of the question, (though the award ceremony was long enough to allow it). Mt. Washington had inspired this habit, the need for it seemed to have passed. The next race of course, Mt. Cranmore Hill Climb, was itself a hill repeat. With these approaches and several trail runs of 4+ hours and 20+ miles, I've gained a fair idea how to manage dehydration and calories over tough terrain. Knowing I know enough to be dangerous, I simply prepare for the worst (even if it's only 'One Hill').
This brings the summer recap to last weekend and Loon Mtn., the steepest of the Mountain races, an ascent only race with a gondola ride back down. I never had to consider repeating the 5.7 miles and 2,700' of climbing, though the Gondola would make it a cinch. Right next door, at Lincoln Woods, there was a Fat Ass 50k going on. Fat Ass events are unofficial, mostly unsupported, ultra distance races. There is no special reason to use foul language for them, the crazy ultra people simply do. So, at 6:30 am some number of people met to run the 31.5 miles of the Pemi-loop, trails following the White Mountain ridgeline around the Pemigewasset river valley. I could not ignore this coincidence and ready for a long run, the plan was to extend my day with up to 20 more miles there on that course. Since there may be encounters with withered ultra runners, at 4:30 am I piled into the car with all the fluid carrying capacity I owned and headed north for a 3 1/2 hour drive.
Free stuff was in abundance before the race. Picking up my number I was able to grab about 6 Hammer Gels, free fuel for the afternoon. After a thorough warm up, skies were clear and everyone was fleeing the sun at the starting line, crowding into the rare shady spots. For some reason, Smart Water had a tent set up right there. Odd choice, as the crowd typically gathers at a starting line for 15 minutes and is not going to take much away with them. Their bottles of water were popular though, I would see several in racer's hands going up the hill. I myself snagged a case, as that was the mode of distrubution, and stashed it in the cool waters of the Pemi for later.
I situated myself about three rows back of the crowd, which led to an ideal start. An agressive little lady in fireblades and colorful shorts hopped right in front of me at the start, she had finished just ahead of me in a different fancy pair of shorts at Cranmore. I tried to keep up, but she led me by about 50 yards after the first hill. On that hill began a game with a guy in red shorts that had an agressive run/walk pattern where I was content to run it all. Slowly he'd gap me a few times but I'd catch up. After mile 2 I was only passed by a handful of people. There was a tall older guy, a younger guy with curly hair and heavy beard, and a non descript middle aged dude that formed a pack I stuck within 10 paces of for the second half of the race. On the brief downhill at mile 5 I caught the whole group, except for curly guy. I used a visual run/walk strategy for all the vertical stuff. Several stretches are basically straight up, steepest slopes I've ever run. If there was a visible short relief in the grade, I ran it. Cruising by wilpower alone my powerhiking form was much improved. I was the only one who wanted to run the last switchbacks to the top, which allowed me to catch curly dude right at the crest. He seemed wiped out but I ran my tail off down the hill towards the finish to stay ahead anyway. After the vertical 50 yard dash to the finish I crossed the line over 90 seconds faster than the 2007 edition into cool rain clouds.
The exposed ski trails and access roads were brutal. Even drinking as much as possible at the 2 aid stations I was a little bonky and dehydrated. I chalk this one up as a success, and my favorite race of the bunch. The views at the top were breathtaking, and there was a lookout tower with a map of the peaks you could see. I slurped two gels and took stock of the trails I planned to run. Immediately after the gondola ride down, I went and grabbed 3 bagels to add to my growing pile of race schwag. I retrieved my case of Smart Water and was on the road. The Water was awesome, fortified with non -sodium electrolytes. It filled 2 - 24 oz. handhelds, and also my Nathan waist pack's 22 oz bottle. Each bottle was paired with 2 gels. In the waist pack and clipped onto it were 2 - 5 oz. bottles with perpetuem. I had 9 or ten endurolytes and also 6 of these cheap-o-glucosamine chondroitin supplements from Walmart that have 120 mg sodium per pair. I threaded my new Loon Mtn. shirt over the strap at my waist and the load was quite bearable. My route would head in along the Pemi, then up the Osseo trail to Mt. Flume. I would continue on as many summits as possible with Mt. Lincoln as a goal.
to be continued ...

Loon Mtn. Race RD's blog at
Pemi - Challenge RD's blog at

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Loon & The Pemi-Loop

Fifth race in the series, Loon Mountain. This is 90% uphill with a short respite before the last half mile which remains the steepest sustained climb I've seen. I'm going to run the entire thing before this last half mile. Power hiking is still not my strong suit, but I can build up some steam and this time really stick to a run/walk strategy. Strategy being different from resigning to a walk at points. Then it is a gondola ride down, hope it is a clear day for a a good view and an overview of the Pemi-Loop.
There is a Fat Ass 50k race, an unsupported and unofficial 31+ mile run around the Pemi -Loop, beginning at 6:30 am. If I head out reverse on the course, I can get a few/five hours of running in and possibly cross paths with some ultra-runners I follow on the web. I'll be carrying a lot of extra water to share if any of them are in dire need. I'll actually carry as much as possible for the training experience. Escarpment is less than a month away, and after that I'm running a 50k myself somewhere somehow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

2008 Cranmore Hill Climb

One report is linked in the title to this entry, and my report will follow soon ... (really, it was quite a tale to tell)
... I can't keep up with these mountains! Off to Loon and the Pemi - Loop.